Ag Briefs: Outagamie Co. CAFO fined $55,000

Wisconsin State Farmer
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Outagamie Co. CAFO fined $55,000

Attorney General Josh Kaul said the state has fined Verhasselt Farms, Ltd., for alleged violations of the state’s water pollution laws applicable to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

The judgment requires the defendants to pay a $55,000 penalty and to complete upgrades to two feed storage areas at the Outagamie County farm.  

According to the Complaint, on at least June 15, 2017, Verhasselt Farms discharged polluted runoff into state waters in violation of state law and the CAFO’s water discharge permit. Additionally, the Defendant failed to timely complete construction of controls required to prevent runoff from feed storage areas at the farm.


Northern WI gets first hard frost

While temperatures were above normal for most of the state last week, northern areas had the first hard freeze of 2021, according to USDA's NASS WI Crop Progress and Condition report.

Nearly half of the corn harvested for grain has already been sent to market or stored. Moisture content was reported at 20%, with condition rated at 72% good to excellent.

Seventy-four of the soybean harvest was in the books for 2021 while farmers had 93% of the winter wheat planted for 2022, 11 days ahead of schedule. Fall tillage was reported at 44% complete.


Discovery Farms Annual Conference set

The 10th annual Discovery Farms Annual Conference is set for Dec. 15 at the Glacier Canyon Conference Center in Wisconsin Dells.

This year's theme is 'Balancing water quality tradeoffs from farm management decisions', which will involved the use of data from the group's water quality monitoring over the last 20 years to assess tradeoffs of on-farm management decisions. 

The morning session will focus on phosphorus and the water quality tradeoffs that happen from manure management decisions. The afternoon session will highlight nitrogen and the new studies and technologies that will aid farmers in making the best nitrogen decisions for Wisconsin’s waters.

Cost is $80 per person. Registration and details at:


Grocer sues beef producer for $2.7M over outbreak

Lawyers representing New Seasons Market have filed a $2.7 million lawsuit against an Oregon beef producer accusing the company of negligence for delivering beef tainted with E. coli in 2019, court records show. 

Several people were sickened by the bacteria, prompting a wide recall, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. 

The suit, filed this week in Multnomah County Circuit Court by the Portland-based company, names Country Natural Beef, based in Redmond.

On Nov. 8, 2019, officials from the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Agriculture told New Seasons three cases of E. coli had been connected to ground beef sold in Portland-area stores of the grocery chain.

The chain took samples from meat cases and sent them to a state-run lab for analysis. Two came back positive for E. coli and both were determined to have come from Country Natural Beef, the lawsuit said.

New Seasons pulled ground beef from shelves in all of its stores and recalled ground beef products it had sold, according to the suit. The suspension of ground beef sales lasted three months, the lawsuit says.

New Seasons seeks money to recover costs from paying refunds, cleaning, issuing and carrying out the recall and investigating the outbreak source. The chain also seeks damages for a loss of goodwill with customers, according to the suit.


CurderBurger is a hit on Cheese Curd Day

Those who didn't get to Culver's early on Cheese Curd Day, Oct. 15, were unable to sample the one-day-only curder burger due to the overwhelming popularity of the offering.

According to the Prairie du Sac-based chain, 136,000 of the Culver's Deluxe Butterburger topped with a large cheese curd patty were sold at its 800 stores. Most sold out before the lunch rush began.

In Wisconsin, 94 CurderBurgers were sold per hour. On a typical day, they sell about 30 regular burgers per hour. 


Salmonella outbreak tied to onions sickens hundreds

A salmonella outbreak tied to onions has sickened more than 650 people in 37 states, U.S. health officials said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at least 129 people have been hospitalized. No one has died. Nearly all of the illnesses were reported in August and September, and the largest numbers of cases were in Texas and Oklahoma.

The outbreak has been traced to whole red, white and yellow onions imported from Chihuahua, Mexico, and distributed throughout the United States by ProSource Inc., Associated Press reported.

The company told health officials that the onions were last imported in late August. But onions can be stored for months and may still be in homes and businesses, officials said.

Consumers are advised not to buy or eat whole fresh red, white, or yellow onions imported from Chihuahua and distributed by ProSource, and to throw out any whole red, white, or yellow onions that do not have a sticker or packaging.


Sandhill crane hunting season draws support at hearing

Creating a hunting season for sandhill cranes in Wisconsin drew support at a legislative hearing, with backers of the Republican proposal saying it could be properly managed and help farmers who say the birds are overpopulated and hurting their crops.

The bill is one of 13 hunting-related measures introduced by Republicans and supported by the pro-hunting group Hunter Nation that are working their way through the Legislature. Conservation groups complained at a Senate committee hearing, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Republicans say the goal of the bills, including the sandhill crane proposal, is to make hunting, fishing and trapping more accessible.

The bills include stocking more pheasants and brook trout, simplifying turkey hunting seasons and reducing DNR regulations for hunting, trapping and fishing.

Hunting sandhill cranes was last proposed in 2011 but the measure never made it out of committee. Several farmers testified about the thousands of dollars in damage that flocks of sandhill cranes can cause after seeds are planted in the spring. 


House bill would authorize beef contract library

The House Agriculture Committee unanimously approved a bipartisan bill that would create a contract library for the beef industry, something producers have pushed for in order to get more information on cattle transactions.

The bill would set up a mechanism for the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to report the terms of alternative marketing agreements between packers and producers. A similar library currently exists in the pork sector and has been widely supported by beef industry producer groups following a closed-door meeting earlier this year, Agri-Pulse reported.

“Producers have been asking for increased transparency and leverage in the cattle market for years, the Cattle Contract Library Act will provide granular data in near real time, ensuring producers understand the value of marketing agreements,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson, the South Dakota Republican who introduced the bill. “Data drives marketing decisions and a contract library will provide much-needed leverage for independent producers.”

The legislation calls for various forms of contract information, including the type and duration of a contract, summary information, provisions “that may affect the price of cattle covered by the contract,” the total number of head solely committed and not solely committed to the packer, and contract provisions that “provide for the expansion in the committed numbers of fed cattle to be delivered.”


Lawsuit filed after source of salmonella outbreak confirmed

A national food safety law firm has filed the first lawsuit in the nation as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) identifieed the source of an outbreak of Salmonella Oranienburg affecting victims in 37 states, hospitalizing at least 129 people.

According to the CDC there are 652 laboratory-confirmed salmonella cases linked to consumption of fresh red, yellow, and white onions imported by ProSource Inc. of Washington County, Idaho. This number is expected to grow as victims continue to consume these contaminated onions, which have a shelf life of up to three months.  Nearly a quarter of these illnesses are in Texas. 


Larger loans point to uncertainty in cattle country

The Kansas City Federal Reserve says demand for livestock loans grew in the third quarter and that could signal uncertainty in cattle country.

Nathan Kauffman tells Brownfield Ag News the average size for loans reached an all-time high despite a lower number of loans issued. “The cattle industry has faced more pressure than some others in agriculture partly because of higher feed costs,” Kauffman says. “At least part of what we’re seeing, we think is attributed to increases costs and the increased need for financing among livestock producers.”

Kauffman says producers are having other financing concern including costs associated with land and machinery.

ROME, Italy

FAO launches global system to address animal disease threats

With COVID-19 underlining the need for greater vigilance, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched a new global animal disease information system to recognize new threats from animal diseases.

The EMPRES-i+ system, a new web-based system, will better support countries in identifying and mitigating serious animal disease threats.

The FAO Director-General linked the importance of the new system’s launch to UN World Development Information Day on October 24, highlighting how the power of information technology can be harnessed for FAO’s objectives of better production, better nutrition, better environment and a better life for all, leaving no one behind.


Compeer Financial awards $450K to emergency response depts.

Compeer Financial’s Fund for Rural America, the Farm Credit cooperative’s giving program, has awarded 155 grants as part of their Emergency Response Equipment Program, totaling $450,391.

Emergency Response Equipment Grants help to offset the cost of equipment that community emergency response departments need to carry out their important work throughout rural America. Eight of these grants went directly to COVID-19 related response needs.

The 2021 Emergency Response Equipment Grants will directly impact the lives of 4,043 first responders and will touch the lives of 696,396 rural residents.

Since the program was established in 2018, the Fund has awarded 646 Emergency Response Equipment Grants for a total impact of over $1.7 million. The Fund intends to offer this grant again in August 2022. 

Fifty-two organizations in Compeer Financial’s territory in Wisconsin benefitted from this year's program.


Class III prices fall flat

Despite a mainly higher CME spot dairy auction, Class III prices faltered and took back some of last week’s gains, Farm Journal reported.  Butter performed the best as it gained 3 cents and settled out at $1.865/lb on four uncovered bids. 

Block cheese followed suit as it added a penny to $1.82/lb.  Barrels lost a quarter cent and settled out at $1.86/lb.  Whey traded a single load and ¾ of a cent stronger to $0.625/lb.  Grade A nonfat dry milk was unchanged at $1.5375/lb.

Class III markets saw November drop 24 cents and December 29 cents/cwt, respectively.  Both months do remain north of $19/cwt at today’s close.


Chicken executives face prison in price-fixing trial

Bloomberg reported that a group of 10 executives and employees of top U.S. poultry companies – including two former chief executives – are facing criminal antitrust charges in a trial getting underway this week in Denver.

They face prison and million-dollar fines if convicted for fixing prices and rigging bids over nearly a decade.

The trial, the first to result from a years-long investigation in the $95 billion U.S. market for chicken, has ensnared affiliates of Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. and Perdue Farms LLC among others. Together, the companies associated supply about a third of the chicken Americans eat. 

The jury will be asked to decide whether the executives agreed to coordinate pricing and bids to limit competition.


USDA: Retail meat prices will continue to rise

The price shoppers pay for items like meat at the grocery store are expected to continue the rapid rise. An updated Consumer Price Index (CPI) released from USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) shows wholesale beef prices climbed 14.2% from July to August of 2021, and price projections point to a possible 20% increase in wholesale beef prices this year.

The price projections released are for a wide variety of grocery store items. According to Farm Journal Washington Correspondent Jim Wiesemeyer, meat prices are expected to see the largest increase. Prices are being driven by demand, labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, and high feed and other input costs.

The updated ERS forecast shows prices for meats, poultry and fish now sits at 4.5% to 5.5%, which is up from the 4% to 5% posted last month. He says the main drivers are higher beef and pork prices. Bacon is up 30-40% since March 2020, thanks to increased demand at home and overseas.